August 11, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Nothing about the final version of the Sport Pilot rule has caused more consternation than the driver's-license-medical provision. What rankled most with the GA community is that it's possible for two pilots to have identical medical conditions, only one is brand-new to flying and the other is a former pilot whose FAA medical has been denied or revoked, and the novice will be able to fly as a Sport Pilot and the former pilot won't. EAA has been fervently working with the FAA at the highest levels to work out this "ambiguity," and on Tuesday they released a report on their progress so far.
Despite recent meetings among EAA staff, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey and Federal Air Surgeon Jon Jordan, EAA said on Tuesday "the specific recourses available to pilots who have FAA medical denials or revocations on file remain unclear." EAA said the FAA's preamble to the final rule suggests that, in addition to the traditional special-issuance process for reinstating medical eligibility, the agency will develop a modified, or alternative, set of procedures specifically for those seeking medical reinstatement for sport-pilot flying only. (Goody, more rules.) At Oshkosh, the general buzz leaned toward interpreting this to mean that the FAA would essentially hash out a new set of standards, somewhere below what is required for a third-class medical, and establish a procedure that would allow denied or revoked pilots to qualify to regain their wings. "EAA has continued to assert the need to tailor the special-issuance criteria for those willing to fly only within the domain of sport-pilot operations," EAA said in its report. "FAA's responses have demonstrated a sympathetic understanding of EAA's position and the sound philosophical rationale behind it."
But while FAA officials have showed sympathy to EAA's "sound philosophical rationale," they have also "raised several thorny, practical concerns," EAA said. Among these is the question of whether building a process to earmark requests for sport-pilot medical credentials and segregate them from requests for third-class-medical reinstatements would "result in the creation of an unwieldy bureaucracy." (The FAA and unwieldy bureaucracy ... say it isn't so.) Furthermore, the development of specific, modified criteria for evaluating sport-pilot reinstatement requests poses challenges. EAA said it believes "these obstacles are surmountable." FAA has agreed to additional discussions. Meanwhile, understanding that some people may be unsure about their FAA medical status, EAA's Sport Pilot Web site provides instructions on how to check.
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A woman who had taken only a few flying lessons was able to safely land a Piper Malibu in Laconia, N.H., on Monday after the pilot, her father, became incapacitated. Jennifer Truman, 30, brought the plane back safely, talked down over the radio by an air traffic controller. "It was a fairly decent landing, a little bumpy," Gilford Fire Lt. Michael Balcom told the Concord Monitor. "She came in and cut the engine right away. There wasn't any damage to the plane." The pilot's wife, in the back seat, had also passed out. Early reports said carbon monoxide in the cabin was suspected. (Just because it's summer, that doesn't mean you're safe.) The flight had left Laconia only a short time before. The parents, William and Diana Truman, both in their 60s, were taken to a hospital and their condition was not reported at our deadline.
In Texas last week, a string of aircraft crashes (as AVweb reported Monday) had less fortunate outcomes. While 20 fatalities in one week -- even in a state as big as Texas -- is likely to shake up any local aviation community, the impact is being felt far beyond the border. Among those who died last week were at least three pilots whose professional lives were devoted to GA businesses. Richard Fisher, the owner of Oklahoma City-based Aviation Flight Specialists, a corporate charter company, was the pilot of a twin-engine Aerostar that crashed into a house shortly after takeoff near Austin on Aug. 3. His five passengers also died. On Aug. 4, Don Brooks, the sales manager for autopilot manufacturer Century Flight Systems, died in a Piper PA-32 that struck power lines. He was a passenger in the aircraft, and the pilot also died. Joel A. Smith, 69, one of three men killed when a single-engine Mooney M-20J crashed while trying to land at the Olney, Texas, airport, had worked as a test pilot at Mooney Aircraft Co. for more than 26 years. Smith left the company earlier his year. "I believe he had more hours in the Mooney than anyone else in the world," his wife, Teresa, told local reporters. About a month ago, Smith went to work for Don Maxwell Aviation in Gladewater, Texas.
When a 66-year-old man was killed Sunday in Lexington, Tenn., while flying an ultralight aircraft, at least one news report on the accident noted that new FAA rules are about to take effect that will attract more pilots to sport flying. "Under the new rules, an estimated 15,000 people will now earn FAA certificates to operate more than 15,000 existing ultra-light-like aircraft," said a story in the Jackson Sun. "Another 12,000 pilots and new aircraft will be certified over the next 10 years." Some of those may be past pilots returning to the sport (some sources report this was the case in Lexington). While the story was not alarmist, the juxtaposition seems sure to raise questions in the reader's mind about the safety of all those thousands of new aircraft (and pilots). On the other hand, the Everett, Wash., Daily Herald wrote about the economic boost the Sport Pilot rule is expected to bring to a local airport. "The new rule will woo back former pilots and new people to the industry, hopefully pumping money into the area economy," the paper said, paraphrasing two local aviation businesspeople. When the rule came out last month, the Poynter Institute, a resource for journalists, posted a briefing about it online, with links to the relevant FAA and EAA sites. That should (could) help the non-aviation-literate reporters to keep their stories accurate.
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Statistics show the number of pilot-caused runway incursions is slowly declining overall, but the percentage caused by GA pilots is on the rise. By taking a new 60-minute course, you can earn points with the FAA, just in case you ever need them: "If involved in a runway incursion, the FAA will normally be more lenient to those who have passed the Runway Safety course and who meet other criteria," says the FAA Office of Runway Safety. Starting today, AOPA's Air Safety Foundation is offering a free online course, "Runway Safety: Safe Flying Starts and Ends on the Ground," to help keep pilots focused on the dangers and out of trouble. Pilots who complete the course and pass a quiz can print out their own certificate, qualifying for the FAA Wings program. The entire process takes about an hour, and includes animations, videos and audio sections (all of which worked flawlessly in our online test, despite using an aging iMac with not-the-newest Netscape). "The learning technology in this course reflects an ambitious effort," ASF Executive Director Bruce Landsberg told AVweb on Tuesday. "We hope to make a dent in runway safety," he said. "We're trying to inoculate If you think you know it all already, you can also test out by passing the pre-test at the start of the program. "Not many people are that good," said Landsberg.
First it was Vice President Dick Cheney at Adam Aircraft in June, and yesterday, President Bush chose Eclipse Aviation as his rallying point in Albuquerque, as he and Sen. John McCain blasted through New Mexico. Is it something about aviation companies that gives panache to the Republican campaign stomp, or is the industry maybe seen as crucial to the swing vote? Mr. Bush led an open question-and-answer session yesterday at Eclipse, and talked with CEO Vern Raburn about entrepreneurship. He also spoke with two Eclipse employees about their jobs, and noted that he had stopped at Eclipse in 1990 as a candidate, when the company had 18 employees, and now it has 330. "We were very happy to have him here," Eclipse spokesman Andrew Broom told AVweb last night. "We weren't making a political statement -- he's the president, the commander in chief, and we're happy to provide the venue." The forum attendance was limited to holders of advance tickets.
THE CESSNA SKYHAWK GOES GLASS
As if to remind us that messing about with rockets is not as easy as it looks, a thankfully unmanned test flight by Space Transport Corp. -- an X Prize contender based near Seattle -- took to the air on Sunday and promptly exploded. A spooky photo in the Seattle Times shows the decapitated plastic head of a dummy that was the craft's only unfortunate occupant. The undaunted team said at its Web site Monday they already know what went wrong and "the problem ... is easily resolved." One of the solid propellant engines over-pressurized and severely damaged the remainder of the engine assembly, the team said, apparently because the propellant was mis-formulated. "This is a short-term setback that will help us in the long run," the team said. The passenger capsule and nosecone broke free of the engine assembly and somersaulted toward the ocean. "Aside from the propellant lesson, numerous small lessons were learned and the cost of [the rocket] itself was minimal compared to the value of the knowledge gained in building and testing the vehicle."
This week, helicopters came under scrutiny following an FBI alarm that they might be used by al Qaeda in terrorist attacks. The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security sent the alerts last Friday night to 18,000 police and government officials, the Associated Press reported yesterday. Security was tightened at heliports in New York City and elsewhere, but reports said that some officials were skeptical of the substance of the alerts and questioned whether they were based on any credible or current information (we love an election year). Federal officials also required heliport operators to turn over details about employees for background checks. "We remain concerned about al Qaeda's continued efforts to plan multiple attacks against the U.S., possibly employing general aviation aircraft, including helicopters," the FBI directive reads, according to an unnamed source cited by the New York Daily News. The FBI also said that al Qaeda may use helicopters to spread chemical or biological agents, the Daily News said. The alert also cited limos as possible delivery systems of terrorist weapons. No word on whether rental trucks, dinghies or wolves in sheep's clothing were also cited as possible threats.
ATTENTION, AIRCRAFT CLUB MEMBERS! GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR CLUB?
Garmin says it expects to start deliveries this month of its GNS 480, which the company says is the first GPS navigator approved for precision approach operations. The unit will make it possible for pilots to complete an approach in low instrument conditions at airports that lack an Instrument Landing System (ILS). Upon FAA approval, Garmin said, the GNS 480 will utilize satellite-based navaids for precise lateral and vertical approach guidance -- similar to ILS operations -- without the need for ground-based navaids of any kind. "WAAS precision approaches promise to redefine the airspace system in terms of navigation and capacity, " said Gary Kelley, Garmin's director of marketing, in a news release. The GNS 480 uses a 15-channel WAAS receiver to update the aircraft's position at a rate of five times per second. The unit also provides oceanic-approved IFR GPS/nav/comm functionality and ILS/VOR capabilities, with a 3.8-inch (diagonal), 256-color moving-map display, and sells for $11,995.
With the fire season under way out West, pressure is intense to get the fleet of air tankers that was grounded in April back in the air. But this week, the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) is still struggling to get data needed to specify a "life limit" on some of the grounded aircraft. Officials at Lockheed Martin said it might take as long as four months to collect the data required to satisfy the U.S. Forest Service that the P2 tankers, built in the 1940s, are airworthy. NIFC spokesperson Rose Davis told AVweb on Tuesday that they don't have a timeline in place, they are just working through the process. "Weather has helped us so far," she said, noting that the Northwest region has had a fairly light summer fire season. But it's been dry in California, and a busy fall is expected when the Santa Ana winds kick in, in October, Davis said.
Meanwhile, an editorial in Montana's Missoulian newspaper on Monday suggested that maybe the Forest Service shouldn't be in the aircraft certification business anyway... isn't there already a federal agency assigned that responsibility? Oh yeah ... the FAA. "It seems wasteful to divert precious resources and occupy a land-management agency with the task of creating, maintaining, evaluating and certifying its own air force," the Missoulian wrote. "We don't know much about airplanes -- certainly nothing about metallurgical stresses, operational life limits and other technical issues needed to certify planes as airworthy. Our guess is that, as an agency, the Forest Service knows next to nothing." So far, in Oregon, the small single-engine air tankers that have been taking up the slack to fight fires have been getting positive reviews. They are quicker to respond and much cheaper to operate, and because they are more numerous, they can be kept on standby closer to anticipated fires.
OREGON AERO ASKS "ARE YOU PREPARED TO SURVIVE?"
Sino Swearingen Aircraft Corporation announced Tuesday it has successfully completed high-speed dive testing to .90 Mach for its seven-seat SJ30 light biz jet. The manufacturer lost its chief test pilot, Carroll Beeler, last year when the SJ30-2 aircraft crashed during dive testing to .9 Mach...
Delta says it needs $1 billion in salary concessions from pilots to avoid bankruptcy...
Lightning hit a Japan Airlines 777 and cracked a cockpit window on Monday; the airplane made a safe unscheduled landing at Osaka Airport...
Local pilots say plans to restrict access to information about Melbourne (Fla.) Airport are not to enhance security but to deter critics...
Boeing Wichita yesterday marked its final work on the 757 with a ceremony...
Texas man who got drunk and took a joy ride in a stolen 172 got six years in prison...
Boeing is on a search to hire thousands of engineers and technicians.
If it caught your attention, it will probably interest someone else, too. Drop us a line. Submit news tips via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
AEROSHELL KNOWS WHAT PILOTS WANT TO PROTECT & SHINE THEIR AIRCRAFT
Quiz #84 -- Special VFR
Want to feel special inside controlled airspace? Request a Special VFR clearance. While your VFR buddies scratch their headsets, you'll scud-run with FAA approval. Let's review the SVFR rules to see how special you really are.
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"IT'S LIKE HAVING A NEW AIRPLANE"
Last week, we asked how AVweb readers feel about new high-tech instrument panels. By and large, you're ready for 'em! 42% of our respondents think it's about time for more comprehensive and reliable instrumentation in the cockpit. Another 33% of you said you were unintimidated by the new panels, answering "what I need to know, I'll learn." A cautious (and well-reasoned) 16% agreed that flying these new-paneled aircraft requires you to be as good a systems manager as you are a pilot and said that would leave them out of the newer planes, at least until they caught up to the learning curve. Only 5% of our readers chose the answer More capable machines don't matter if you don't know how to use the things and I don't.
No one thought the new instrument panels were overpaid.
This week, AVweb wants to hear your predictions about LSA and what will happen when the first major accident occurs in a Light Sport Aircraft. Do you believe that the first bad and highly publicized event involving a Light Sport Aircraft will kill the new category? Click here to chime in.
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Seaplanes and air shows and fighters and well, you just wouldn't believe the great stuff we got in the "POTW" contest this week! And as much as we hate to repeat a theme the very next week, we just had to award this week's grand prize (an authentic AVweb staff baseball hat) to Lacey Hartje for her dynamic ultralight photo. EAA readers, take note this is the kind of shot that belongs on a Sport Pilot brochure!
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
copyright © Lacey Hartje
"Love at First Flight"
Lacey Hartje of Redmond, Washington snapped this photo of a friend flying her
Aerolite 103 his first experience in an ultralight, and "he loved it," reports Lacey
here to view a large version of this image
Click here for a medium-sized version
AVweb continues to receive a large number of excellent images for our POTW contest. Here are some of the runners-up. Click on the links below to view larger versions.
"Cook Cleland's Cleveland Air Racer No. 57"
No, it's not a tongue-twister it's our "PotW" runner-up from photographer
Robert Burns of Mauckport, Indiana. "[A] beautiful airplane and a great sunny
day helped to make this photo one that I really liked," writes Bob.
Used with permission of Bryon Stoll
Bryon Stoll of New London, Wisconsin pulls no punches
in this action-packed air show photo from AirVenture '04 one
of our favorite Oshkosh photos to date!
sorry for the lack of a super-sized, high-res
photo here but this was the only copy Byron sent
To enter next week's contest, click here.
A Reminder About Copyrights: Please take a moment to consider the source of your image before submitting to our "Picture of the Week" contest. If you did not take the photo yourself, ask yourself if you are indeed authorized to release publication rights to AVweb. If you're uncertain, consult the POTW Rules or send us an e-mail.
AVflash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest aviation news, articles, products, features and events featured on AVweb, the Internet's Aviation Magazine and News Service. http://www.avweb.com
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